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5 Things You Missed at the 2018 Drama Desk Awards

New York theater's most exciting night was marked by plenty of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

SpongeBob SquarePants star Ethan Slater and Carousel star Jessie Mueller both won Drama Desk Awards last night.
(© David Gordon)

The Tony Awards are the most famous theater awards in America (and perhaps the whole world). But if you really want to know what's happening in New York, you have to look to the Drama Desk Awards, which recognize work on, off, and off-off Broadway. A diverse cross-section of the theater community showed up for the awards ceremony at Town Hall last night. If you didn't watch the live stream on TheaterMania, here's what you missed:

Jamie Brewer won the 2018 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play.
(© David Gordon)

1. Jamie Brewer became the first actor with Down syndrome to win a Drama Desk Award.
Brewer, who appeared in Amy and the Orphans off-Broadway, accepted the award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play before a standing ovation of her peers. As the first model with Down syndrome to walk the runway in New York Fashion Week, Brewer was already a pioneer, but this win blazes a new trail. "I want to thank everyone here for believing in what I can do," Brewer said, adding, "I'm going to show you what individuals with disabilities can do."

James McArdle and Andrew Garfield of Angels in America were both nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play.
(© Brinkhoff-Moegenburg)

2. Andrew Garfield dedicated a large part of his acceptance speech to James McArdle.
Andrew Garfield was widely expected to win the Outstanding Actor in a Play category for his performance as Prior Walter in the Broadway revival of Angels in America — and he did. But he took the opportunity to highlight the work of his costar and fellow nominee James McArdle, who plays Louis. Describing how he keeps one eye open during a scene in which he is supposed to be asleep so he can watch McArdle's confrontation with Lee Pace (who plays Joe), Garfield commented, "He tears Joe's asshole fresh every night…I can't stop watching him because it's so fresh and so new, and I can't wait to see what's going to happen every night." He was then played off the stage to the tune of Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man," which is perfect on so many levels. It's a well-deserved compliment for the Scottish actor, who completely transforms himself into a Jewish New Yorker seven times a week. Angels closes on July 15, so New York audiences only have a limited time to see McArdle's extraordinary performance. But a well-placed source informs me that he'll be returning to the New York stage sooner than you think.

As Nathan Lane lost his train of thought during his acceptance speech, he said, "I'm so tired. Aren't you tired?" He then went on to make his comments about Prednisone.
(© David Gordon)

3. This awards season is brought to you by Prednisone.
A hoarse and exhausted-sounding Jessie Mueller accepted the Outstanding Actress in a Musical award for her performance in Carousel by speculating, "Half of you are probably on Prednisone." Prednisone is a steroid that relieves inflammation around the vocal cords while also giving its users a jolt of energy, and if Mueller is to be believed, it is also getting Broadway through the grueling awards season. During his acceptance speech for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play, Nathan Lane shared, "The only time I'm not tired is when they put me on Prednisone and I get that surge of energy and homicidal rage that makes you think you can conquer the world." Much has been made about steroid use in professional athletics, but in the commercial theater it seems to be accepted enough that one doesn't think twice about discussing it in front of a live audience of 1,500 industry professionals.

SpongeBob SquarePants was the big winner among the new musicals at the 2018 Drama Desk Awards.
(© Joan Marcus)

4. SpongeBob SquarePants had an impressive showing the week before the Tonys.
Of the new musicals this season, SpongeBob SquarePants was the big winner, taking home six awards, including Outstanding Musical. The show's star, Ethan Slater, snagged Outstanding Actor in a Musical. Gavin Lee (who plays Squidward) won Outstanding Featured Actor, using his speech to remark, "SpongeBob SquarePants on Broadway. Who'd have thought? I had the same reaction as you did when I first got my audition, but boy, was I wrong." So does this foreshadow a slew of Tony wins next week? I wouldn't bet on it. The sponge's winning streak is likely to be soaked up by The Band's Visit, which won three Drama Desk Awards last year for its off-Broadway run and was only considered this year for its new Broadway sound design — a category it handily won. Considering the enthusiasm for The Band's Visit on the Drama Desk red carpet, it goes into next Sunday as the show to beat.

David Friedman and Peter Kellogg, the songwriters behind Desperate Measures, both won Drama Desk Awards last night.
(© David Gordon)

5. Off-Broadway is Outstanding.
While SpongeBob won the top musical prize, the awards for Outstanding Music and Outstanding Lyrics went to Desperate Measures, David Friedman and Peter Kellogg's country-western take on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. This uproariously clever comedy played an extended run off-Broadway with the York Theatre Company before transferring last month to New World Stages, becoming that rarest of endangered species: the commercial off-Broadway musical. Meanwhile, no Broadway show was in the running for Outstanding Play this year, with the crop of nominees deriving entirely from not-for-profit off-Broadway theaters (Joshua Harmon's Admissions ultimately won). Considering that The Band's Visit also won for Outstanding Music and Lyrics last year, it is obvious that if you're looking for the future of American theater, you need to look off-Broadway — and specifically to the Drama Desk Awards.